Get Up and Grow a Garden!
“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” – Robert Brault
At all ages, the Harris children of Fort Jones, California have helped with the planting and tending of their large family garden, you-pick berry patch, and ranch. Can you guess their favorite part of gardening? No, it’s not the weeding. It’s definitely the eating! These kids have been getting up and growing since they could toddle along with mom and dad, or ride in a wagon.
Peter, age 6, is crazy about strawberries. He’s good natured, happy go lucky, and, when it comes to growing, he’s hands on with the planting, watering, and eating. He gathers so many berries that the family freezes them and it’s always Peter’s first choice for a snack.
Clayton, age 8, also loves eating berries. He’s the rancher and farmer and thrives working hands on harvesting hay and helping with the pigs.
Elizabeth, age 10, is the marketer of the berry patch, welcoming visitors and customers, sharing her passion for berries and gardening, and instructing on picking and weighing. She likes to pick the berries, but doesn’t eat the loot.
Michelle Harris, mother, nurturer, berry farmer, nutrition educator, and big gardener, tells of the benefits of gardening with children with infectious enthusiasm and knowledge. She describes her garden as a place of bliss for parents, grandparents, and children at all ages and stages.
“The garden is where my children have grown up, sampled fresh fruits and veggies, and eaten a little bit of dirt, too,” she laughs. “Everyone at every age has played a rewarding role in our family garden and berry farm. It’s my happy place, the place we come together to relax, help things grow, and help each other grow.”
The American Dietetic Association recommends between five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. A great way to introduce these foods into your child’s healthy diet is to get them involved in growing it. Michelle Harris has some helpful ideas for parents about growing fresh food, wherever you live, and getting the kids to get up, get out, and grow.
“Something my kids love about the garden is being able to choose, taste, and harvest something fresh for our meals,” says Michelle. “We grow potatoes, zucchini, onions, all kinds of peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and kale. One of the only crops that didn’t succeed was watermelon.
When children participate in growing their food, the likelihood of them trying new things increases dramatically. They’ll consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.”
JOBS FOR YOUNG GARDENERS
Filling Pots and Other Containers: Help with scooping dirt into containers.
Prepping: Use finger or spoon to dig a hole for seeds.
Seeding: Drop seeds in holes, cover with dirt.
Watering: Small watering can and, as child grows, use the hose.
Picking: Select and pick produce (sampling is a given…).
Food Prep: Help wash, prepare and eat.
YOUR GARDEN SPACE
Whether you have a big space to garden, a small area in the backyard, or a small, sunny patio for a few containers, very young children can enjoy helping with a garden. Michelle suggests letting children use their finger or a spoon to dig a hole and drop a seed in. Sometimes, that might be three seeds, but who’s counting? As they grow a bit older, children like to use a watering can or the hose to water developing plants. She suggests planting something quick growing, like snap peas, to keep children interested and engaged in the growing process until they get to the very best part – picking and eating!
Parents can make healthy food a priority, while remaining respectful of their child’s preferences. The food they have a chance to taste with that burst of freshness straight from the vine or plant encourages trying new things.
Michelle describes children’s senses as “more pronounced than adults. So, things can taste stronger to them. They can be sensitive to texture or even to foods touching each other.
Introduce new foods slowly, only a couple at a time, and encourage them to at least try something. You may need to offer a new item ten to 15 times before they decide they like it. If they really don’t like something, allow them the respect of a no-thank-you bite.”
VISIT THE BERRY PATCH
If you’re looking for a fun, family summer outing, the Harris Family opens their you-pick Berry Farm in Fort Jones from late June to October (daylight hours). Pick strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. You can even visit Grandma’s pumpkin patch just down the road. Families are invited to pick berries and picnic at the patch. Call 530) 468-2328 to schedule your visit.